The final presentation for the fall 2021 Princeton Atelier course ATL 499, “Women’s Work: The Evelyn Brown Project”
December 2, 2021 at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. in the CoLab, Lewis Arts complex
Evelyn: Ally Wonski ’22
Evelyn Brown: Kaelani Burja ’23
Additional Audio Text: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911), list of victims; Chandra Talpade Mohanty, selections from Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (2003).
Songs: “Child’s Grove” by Douglas Ecker (1976); “Buffalo Gals” by Douglas Ecker (1976); “Work Bitch” by Britney Spears (2013)
A Note from the Dramaturg
Evelyn Brown: A Diary was Irene Fornés’ only play that was composed entirely out of a found object. The handwritten journal—now lost—was a present to Fornés, who became entranced with Evelyn Brown as a writer and as a long-lost other from a rural U.S. culture at the turn of the twentieth century. Fornés labeled this original production an “adaptation,” leaving Evelyn Brown as the true maker, and Irene as a mere collaborator. Remaining cast and crew members tell of Irene’s immense respect for this woman, and the words she left in her diary, which speak (quite plainly) of the life-sustaining labor that she engaged in daily from January to June in the year 1909 in Melville, New Hampshire. This play is thus a moving meditation on this woman, and the many before and after, who do their domestic work daily, and with care and grace, often without witness, or other markers of social or economic respect.
Evelyn Brown: A Diary was produced at Theatre for a New City, for only one production, in 1980. The series of scenes that we show today is a first attempt to stitch together the archival remnants of that piece. The process has emphasized that theatre, by nature always in the here-and-now, must also reckon with its ghosts. And while as a cast and crew we have pondered the subjective nature of memory, this piece continues to insist on the centrality and import of women’s work, what perhaps is only now being called “essential work.”
We wish to thank Paul Muldoon and Marion Young for supporting this Atelier; Donald Eastman for returning to Evelyn Brown after many decades to do set design; to Scott Cummings for jump starting the oral history project, which included Aileen Passloff, Peter Littlefield, Donald Eastman, Rebecca High, Bonnie Marranca, and most recently Margaret Harrington; to Brian Herrera and the rest of the Fornés Institute for supporting this project that was theorized at the 2018 LTC María Irene Fornés Symposium held at Princeton University.
— Gwendolyn Alker
Gwendolyn Alker (Dramaturg) is an Associate Arts Professor and Director of Theatre Studies in the Department of Drama, Tisch/NYU. She is the former Editor of Theatre Topics and the former managing editor of Women & Performance. As a scholar and dramaturg, she has taught and advocated for the work of María Irene Fornés over the last two decades. Dramaturgical credits include the New York Fornés Festival (2010), which she curated and organized; the award-winning documentary The Rest I Make Up by Michelle Memran (2018); and JoAnne Akalaitis’ Maria Irene Fornes Marathon at The Public Theatre (2018). Publications on Fornés include “Teaching Fornes: Preserving Fornesian Techiques in Critical Context” published in Theatre Topics in 2009, as well as “Fornesian Animality: María Irene Fornés’ Challenge to a Politics of Identity” published in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism (2020), and others.
Donald Eastman (Set Design) designs sets for theater and opera. He has a longstanding relationship with La MaMa, where he made his debut with 3 Solo Pieces by Winston Tong and has since designed Six Characters (a family album), Under the Knife and Picture of Health by Theadora Skipitares, Kiss Shot by James Neu, CoOp Play by Esteban Hernandez, Why Hanna’s Skirts Won’t Stay Down and Give My Regards to Off Off Broadway written and directed by Tom Eyen. His designs Off-Broadway include premiere productions at Signature Theatre, The Public, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Women’s Project, American Place, INTAR, and Theater for the New City. He closely collaborated with playwright Irene Fornés for over two decades beginning in the early 1980s. His work in music theatre includes new pieces by composers Steve Reich and Doug Cuomo at BAM’s Next Wave Festival and numerous designs for opera companies across America. Donald received his education at CalArts, Yale School of Drama, and as a grantee of the NEA/National Opera Institute. Donald is the recipient of an OBIE award for Sustained Excellence in Design.
María Irene Fornés was one of the most enduring, yet simultaneously under-acknowledged theatre practitioners to come from Off-Broadway. Perhaps the most influential American female dramatist of the twentieth century, Fornés was also a gifted director and teacher of playwriting. In 1981 she founded the Hispanic Playwrights Lab at INTAR Arts Center in New York City. At this lab she taught and mentored some of the most well-known Latinx dramatists working today—Cherríe Moraga, Migdalia Cruz, Luis Alfaro, Eduardo Machado, Octavio Solis, and Nilo Cruz, among others. Throughout her prolific career, Fornés wrote over forty plays, won nine OBIE awards, and was short listed for the Pulitzer Prize. She died at the age of 88 on October 30, 2018.
Alice Reagan (Director) is a New York-based freelance director. Recent work includes: Hir by Taylor Mac at Shakespeare & Company; Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue by Quiara Alegría Hudes at Profile Theatre in Portland, Oregon; Jackie by Elfriede Jelinek at Boom Arts; Phaeton (a diggle of a fragment) by Mac Wellman at Classic Stage Company; and Nomads by Julia Jarcho at Incubator Arts Project. Reagan has a special interest in the work of Irene Fornés and has directed Promenade, Enter THE NIGHT, What of the Night?, Drowning, Abingdon Square, and readings of The Office and The Summer at Gossensass. Reagan is Associate Professor of Professional Practice at Barnard College/Columbia University. She founded and curates New Plays at Barnard, which commissions a new play from a woman-identified playwright in a three-year cycle. This program has produced work by L M Feldman, Dipika Guha, Gab Reisman, and Charly Evon Simpson. MFA: Columbia.
Lewis Center for the Arts
Interim Chair: Michael Cadden
Executive Director: Marion Friedman Young
Director of the Princeton Atelier: Paul Muldoon
For a look at all the people working behind the scenes to bring you this event, View a full list of LCA staff members »